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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain

Random thoughts from a Brit in the North West. Sometimes serious, sometimes not. Quite often curmudgeonly.

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 2 March 2021
02 March 2021 @ 11:07

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. 

Covid  

The Times: European leaders in Brussels have pledged that a vaccination passport scheme will be open to British travellers in time to save the summer holidays. A proposal for a “digital green pass” will be put forward by the Commission on March 17 to “kick start” tourism by the end of June. 

France: It had to happen: France approves AstraZeneca vaccine for over-65s despite Macron's efficacy claims. Germany next?

Cosas de España

It's reported that the disgraced ex King wants to come back from exile to attend a sailing event. To do so, he'd fly to Portugal and then - unlike us vetoed plebs - cross the border with Galicia and drive to a regatta in our local port of Sanxenxo(Sanjenjo). Where, in fact, he spent his last days in Spain, with some sailing mates. 

Needless to say, there’s delight in the tourism industry at the possibility of the post-June return of British holiday makers. Possibly even the drunken vomiters. Which, sadly, is how many Spaniards see all Brits - Los hooliganes.

Cousas de Galiza

We await news today of further relaxations in our post-3rd-wave lockdown. Maybe we’ll be able to leave the Pontevedra ’sanitary area’, as the hospitals here are less close to capacity because of the reduction in case numbers and lower demand on the ICUs. Before the next lockdown is imposed because of a 4th wave arising from last weekend’s - predictably lawless - celebrations. This cycle will only be broken by effective vaccines.

María's Tsunami Day 29.  

Germany

There's a hard-to-credit article below - by a German - which is headed: For Germans, Britain is now the grown-up. To be looked on, he claims, with 'post-Brexit envy'. The problems identified are familiar to anyone living in a country with strong regional governments, whether legally federated or not. It can make for bureaucracy and inefficiency - and a fair bit of corruption - and in (abnormal) times of crisis can mean less effective management of the national challenges. Horses for courses, as they say.

The Way of the World  

Almost 4 in 10 university students are addicted to their smartphones, and this plays havoc with their sleep. A study at King’s College London* found that 40% of the students displayed symptoms of addiction. Almost 70% of these had trouble sleeping, compared with 57% of those who weren't addicted. Those who used their phone after midnight or for 4 or more hours a day were most likely to be at high risk of addiction. Anyone surprised?  See details here.

* My alma mater, as it happens.

The USA

I mentioned QAnon yesterday. This purports to be all you need to know about it.

So, Trump has re-emerged to excite a large crowd of deliriously whooping fans. To say the least, it'd be wrong to suggest such a scene has never been seen in Europe but it's hard to imagine it happening these days. The USA is different, As they should say. ‘US exceptionalism’ ain't what it was.

Finally . .

Nice quote from the columnist Tom Harris, talking of Labour's new leader in Scotland: Anas Sarwar has the one quality that all successful leaders possess: he annoys exactly the right people.

THE ARTICLE  

For Germans, Britain is now the grown-up. The UK’s vaccine success compared with Germany has led to unfamiliar feelings of post-Brexit envy: Thomas Kielinger -  long-time UK correspondent of the German daily Die Welt  

As far as a national malaise goes, it doesn’t get much worse. I’m not talking about Covid itself, but rather Germany’s failure to get to grips with it via an orderly vaccine rollout while Brexit Britain races ahead, a malaise that has hit Germany at the very core of its psyche.

You might have thought that it would be Germany, with its much-attested organisational skill, that would have excelled in this field, rather than the Brits and their alleged love of muddling through. But Germany is a federalised country with 17 governments – a national one and 16 regional ones. Under such conditions, organisational skill can quickly turn to chaos. A cacophony of different opinions has arisen, with Angela Merkel having to hold successive summits with the 16 regional, finger-wagging chiefs to find out how best to move forward. Tomorrow, another summit of this kind will be taking place, yet another attempt to cut through a mountain of confusion.

This turmoil has been exacerbated by the AstraZeneca debacle. Some wit let it be known that the vaccine was useless for the over-65s, and within days the “news” had spread like wildfire. A whopping 85 per cent of the 1.5 million doses available in Germany is being stored unused and Angela Merkel has said that she herself wouldn’t take it. President Macron of France has sounded cautious, too. Trust the British, he seemed to argue, in their gung-ho post-Brexit flush of excitement, to run ahead.

Initially, this played well among Germans who by nature pivot towards worrying endlessly; there is a beautiful moniker for it, “Bedenkenträger”, or “doubt carriers”. But now the overload of scientific disputation has led to an atmosphere of utter helplessness as people veer between resignation and feisty incredulity.

In any case, Germans wonder, why couldn’t their leaders come up with an orderly way of distributing the vaccines? But a multiplicity of authorities are all competing for prominence and even their family doctor is so far not allowed to administer the jab. Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, has hardly improved matters, overseeing a mess in Brussels even worse than that in her homeland.

Nobody waxes enthusiastic about the EU any more, and the notion of ever-closer union has evaporated. But Germans are accustomed to Europe as their ersatz identity and political job description, quite apart from enjoying a club with such significant, if endangered, economic clout. Thus they have only ever conceived of Brexit as an act of extreme, self-inflicted harm. Lately, however, they have been disabused of this notion. John Kampfner’s 2020 book, Why the Germans Do It Better: Notes from a Grown-Up Country has virtually been turned on its head.

Look how the foolhardy Brits are coping with Covid and the road out of lockdown. Over 20 million British people have been vaccinated since December, compared with around four million in Germany, which is the larger population by about 15 million. Eat your gloomy predictions, ye staunch anti-Brexiteers. No wonder Germany’s Bild, Europe’s largest circulation tabloid, is growing more excited by the day on account of such breath-taking success. “We envy you British”, was their headline last week.

In my own paper, I referred to it as a national crusade, appealing to a deep-seated instinct to prevail against an invisible invader. Of course, the reality of over 100,000 Covid deaths is a fearsome reminder of Britain’s need to get its act together. But getting it together is precisely what has been happening as the vaccine rollout runs along at unremitting speed.

Trust, that’s what it boils down to. Trust is a process of delegation: individuals have to be able to base their judgment on responsible authority. Trust can be cruelly exploited, but a complete lack of it kills. To use Johnsonian rhetoric: “Germany vacillates, Britain vaccinates”. Angela Merkel should go on national TV and have herself vaccinated with the AstraZeneca jab. It is the only way to restore trust in the vaccine and her leadership, and start turning around Germany’s woeful record.



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